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Friday, January 8, 2016

Welly 1:24 Renault 8 Gordini and Maisto 1:18 Alpine Renault 1600S



When it comes to racing cars they are usually based on a real vehicle that is sold to the general public.  Lately some race cars are unique on their own and share either body graphics to look like the actual vehicle or share nothing at all with the real vehicle.  Either way most of these racing cars are designed to look cool as well as being functional to win races.  Some of these models also turn up as street cars with special trim packages or a limited run production of a certain model.  Then there are models that a manufacturer suggests that "we need to make something more appealing than what we currently have."  That must be what Renault was thinking when designing the Alpine Renault 1600S from the Renault 8 Gordini.







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Renault 8 Gordini

In the 1950's Americans celebrated the victory of World War II as peace overcome violence after five years of war with better times and large cars with lots of chrome.  It was a different story in Europe as the war-torn countries started to rebuild their lives.  This also meant the car companies located there had to come up with simple two-box cars that serve their purpose more than their styling suggests.  That's what the Renault 8 represents when you look at it.  It was sold in the 1960's but was developed in the 1950's as a mainstream car for the Renault brand.  The 8 was the last of the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive Renault's before front-wheel drive took over.  It has a boxy shape, yet it had a bit of aggressiveness in the front-end.  The interior was basic as it has a radio optional, no power windows, no window cranks for the rear doors, not even door handles (door straps instead).  Gordini was a performance brand to the Renault Sport (RS) line since the 1940's building sporty versions of Renault vehicles for racing and for the street.  Founded by Amedee Gordini this brand took the boxy 8 and turn it into a successful rally car that is still admired by French car enthusiasts today.  The powertrain is a 1108 cc I-4 that produced 99 hp. over the stock 59 hp. through a 4-speed manual.  One interesting trick that this engine is water-cooled with a rear-mounted radiator, but gets air flow by a special underbody pan that directs airflow to the rear radiator to cool the engine.






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When I first saw this car I thought it was a Checker Taxi in this yellow scheme and boxy shape, but when I looked closer I found out that this was something else; a Renault on the base it says!  The front has four round headlights (inner ones are the driving foglights), signal lights next to the chrome bumper with the Renault Classic license plate front and rear in black.  The hood has a tapered center much like the trunklid of a 1959 Chevy Impala, with Gordini adding dual racing stripes offset to the right of center.  The boxy shape continues on the sides with upright roof pillars, door handles, dual exterior mirrors, and a chrome trim along the beltline.  The wheels are steel wheels with three bolts holding them down and narrow tires that really don't scream track machine from here.  The rear has a conventional trunk sedan look except the trunklid has vents for the rear engine.  They join rectangular taillights, chrome bumper, Gordini badge, and a nice upright exhaust tip on the left-side.






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The rear engine compartment does not open, so you have to look underneath to see the engine details and more.  The rear engine is hidden by a lower cover with an exit slot at the rear that shows a little bit of the drive belt.  The muffler shows off on the left-side, while on the right-side is a tow hook.  The 4-speed transmission sits just ahead of the rear axle, which uses swing arms to control rear wheel motion.  Remember that aero tray that sends air to the rear radiator?  That's the device in the center of the car that I highlighted with a silver Sharpie (along with other details on the base).  The front has an independent suspension with an I-beam setup for the control arms to rest on.  The front of the vehicle stores the front-mounted spare tire and carrier and the horn is visible on the right-side of the vehicle at the front.  The forward-opening hood opens to reveal some trunk space, though most of it is taken up by the fuel tank with filler nozzle on the left-side of the vehicle; to refuel you have to open the hood first.  Welly did a great job with other details that include the brake master cylinder and booster, battery, and wiring as well.  Open the doors to find a bare bones interior with front bucket seats that are so close together they resemble a bench.  The rear seat, is in fact, a bench, and rear seat passengers must slide the window to get air ventilation while front seat passengers can use the hand crank to roll down the window; all doors have pull handles to open the doors.  The flat dashboard has a very race-car look with 3-spoke steering wheel with silver swiss cheese spokes of a race car, silver rings around the comprehensive gauges, and a big empty slot on the passenger-side of the dashboard that houses the optional radio, if equipped.  The shifter is mounted on the floor closer to the front seats, and check out the extremely flat floor as well.







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Alpine Renault 1600S

Eventually after a while you want something that looks great as well as performs like a reliable rally car like the 8 Gordini.  That's what Renault did to create the Alpine 1600S.  Based on the A110 this Renault has a sleeker bodylines that looks more natural than the boxy 8.  In fact, many of the parts used in the 1600 was borrowed from the 8.  Then it was mounted on a steel backbone with fiberglass body.  The rear-mounted engine was a 1605cc DOHC I-4 that produced 140 hp. through a 5-speed manual transmission.  The interior was designed more like a sports car with front bucket seats, simple dash layout, and the lack of a rear seat or doors.  The Alpine was successful on the Rally circuits in the early 1970's with five runners-up and one win at each race in the WRC in 1973.  However, better competition like the Lancia Stratos and the fact that the Alpine did not fare well with modern fuel-injection sealed the fate for the Alpine line.  Renault still remembers this car as the recent RS01 concept car suggest that will be released by Hot Wheels later this year.







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Just like the 8 Gordini, I found this car by Maisto in 1:18 scale almost twenty years ago.  Never heard of it, but was curious about the sporty look of this coupe model.  As it turns out this was a successful rally car from Renault under the Alpine division and this version was a clean road car without any racing graphics on the iconic blue color.  The low sloping hood features quad lamps like the 8 but the outer lamps flow seamlessly under clear covers with the front fenders.  Signal lights are met with small air vents, while the bumper adds push bars near the Alpine Renault license plate.  The hood has a chrome center stripe with two latches near the front.  The sides are a typical clean coupe with chrome trim along the beltline and  a J-curve just ahead of the rear wheels.  The rear has the 8's rectangular taillights, chrome bumper with black pads, and the muffler is now visible from the rear as it exits in the same left-hand location.  Additional air vents are found on the rear fenders aided by chrome grille slots just ahead of the openings, while the rear window sports nifty decals that include ELF and the three Monte Carlo rally wins.  The wheels have a sportier 3-spoke setup with wider tires.







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The hood opens forward to the same fuel tank area, but now much larger and the filler area is now toward the center of the vehicle for an even longer reach.  The spare tire now moves inside to a full-size spare unit.  The rear trunk opens up to show off the large silver engine block with red oil filler cap, four individual throttle tubes with distributor wires to the left and the exhaust headers to the right.  Underneath the only thing that you can see now is the oil pan and the rear muffler as the rest of the underside is covered up.  Inside, the interior two bucket seats that are the vintage racing type while the rear seat is nowhere to be found except for some padding and seat belts for the front seats.  The door panels have door handles and window cranks and a nice touch of exposed blue exterior parts.  The shifter is close to the steering wheel, the pedals are mounted to the floor and are chrome. the gauges are large and located under one large pod, and even though there's air vents there is no air conditioning, no radio, just a few toggle switches.  Basic race car, indeed.







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So while the Alpine is far more prettier than the boxy 8 Gordini, both show the same common parts and rally success and shows how far an auto manufacturer from a war-torn country has progressed from simple boxy cars for rally racing to sleek sports coupes designed for rally racing.

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